When Jerad Newgard was a boy, he always looked forward to visiting his grandparents’ cabin near Pelican Rapids, Minnesota. Weekends there meant fishing with his uncle and grandfather.
The three generations of Newgards took to Crystal Lake in their dauntless Alumacraft, powered by a two-stroke Johnson which purred like a hundred sea lions. When they found a promising spot the din of the engine cut off, leaving only the reverential mutters of men trying not to scare fish away. Thus Jerad, surrounded by fish and men who very much wanted to see him catch fish, learned how to fish.
“My dad didn’t fish very much back then,” said Jerad, “but he goes pretty often now. That’s because when he comes out with me, his chances of catching something get a whole lot better.
“As time went on I got old enough to captain my grandpa’s boat on my own. I showed my parents I was responsible enough by only breaking the rules when I was too far away from the shore for them to see. My cousin and I went after bluegill, bass, and walleye if we got really lucky. Everyone in our family would come down to the dock to see our trophies at the end of the day.”
Life, as Jerad would put it, got in the way during his high school years. He pitched and played first and third base for the only sport that is arguably more American than fishing, and competed in too many tournaments to spend his summers inconveniencing bass. College gave him more freedom as well as an invitation to fish for the first time at Devils Lake.
“At Devils Lake I went from dunking a line off the side of the boat to catching up to 30 walleye in a single day,” said Jerad. “I was just crushing walleye with crank baits and plastics right during the middle of the day. It was like a whole new world to me.
“I got a corporate sales job out of college. When I finally saved up enough for my own boat I started going back to Devils Lake with friends. One of them, Jason Mitchell, also ran a guide service out of Woodland Resort. During one trip he told me he was short-staffed and asked if I’d like to try out guiding. I said ‘Hey – why not?’
“And I loved it. With my background in sales I found it easy to get along with my clients and find out what’s important to them. Helping people catch fish is a whole lot more fun than helping them with their business phones, too.”
After a few years working for his friend, Jerad decided to guide on his own. He conceived Fishing ND Guide Service a little differently from most other guide services. Whereas the typical guide will specialize in a single body of water, Jerad takes his clients to Lake Sakakawea, the Missouri River or Devils Lake depending on where the most – and the biggest – fish are biting. Splitting his time across North Dakota’s best fishing spots gives Jerad an additional 45 days to guide in a year.
“I most enjoy taking my clients to fish for walleye,” Jerad continued. “They’re predators, so it’s all about getting them to react and then getting real aggressive with them. I remember a couple years back when I took out a man from Dickinson with his 12-year-old son. The first day on Sakakawea was disappointing, but then I found all the big walleye hiding out in the back bays. We got exactly the kind of fast-paced action that gets a kid hooked on fishing for life.
“After doing this for a while I appreciated that a fishing guide is more than just a fishing guide. He’s really there to help make perfect moments happen. I have a group of two couples who come up to Devils Lake from Iowa every year. They’re all in their 60s, so they’re not spring chickens who want to bounce across the waves. Well, this one gal in the group, Barb, is an absolute sweetheart. Her breast cancer had gone into remission earlier that year, and she was happier than ever to get out on the water.
“Barb always has a great attitude and loves to fish. And she’s no whiner, but you can also tell she gets a little frustrated when her companions are outfishing her. On the last day of the trip I told her she’d set a new personal record. I found a pod of big walleye, set her bobber up to the perfect depth, and barely had time to hand over the rod before Barb began the fight of her life. And she did catch a 26-incher that day – the biggest she’s ever caught.”
Jerad has his own little boy and girl now. The twins just turned four last September. The two-stroke Johnson got retired years ago, but it would appear that Newgards will always catch their first fish on Crystal Lake.
“I’m teaching my kids how to fish for the same reason that I guide,” said Jerad. “Life is good when you’re sharing your passion.”
To engage Jerad’s boat, expertise and passion for your next fishing trip, please visit fishingnd.com.
By David Scheller